Franco Lucchini

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Franco Lucchini
Nickname(s) Francesco Baracca della seconda Guerra mondiale”
Born (1917-07-12)12 July 1917
Rome, Italy
Died 24 December 1943(1943-12-24) (aged 26)
Catania
Allegiance Italy
Service/branch Aviazione Legionaria
Regia Aeronautica
Years of service 1936 – 1943
Rank tenente / capitano
Unit 19a Squadriglia, 23° Gruppo Caccia Aviazione Legionaria - 90a Squadriglia, 84a Squadriglia (4° Stormo), Regia Aeronautica
Commands held 10° Gruppo
Battles/wars Spanish Civil War - Second World War
Awards Medaglia d'Oro al Valor Militare "alla memoria"
Medaglia d’Argento al valor Militare Medaglia di Bronzo al Valor Militare
Croce al Merito di Guerra
German Iron Cross second class

Franco Lucchini, MOVM, (24 December 1917 – 5 July 1943) was an Italian World War II fighter pilot in the Aviazione Legionaria and in the Regia Aeronautica. During World War II he achieved 21 (22, according to other sources) individual air victories, plus 52 shared, to add to the five kills in Spain, during the Civil War.[1]

He was born in Rome, the son of a railway official. When he was sixteen, he got a glider pilot's license. In 1935, he enrolled in Regia Aeronautica as a Reserve Officer, with the rank of Sottotenente Pilota di Complemento. In July 1936 he gained his military flight license at Foggia flying school. He was then commissioned (in Servizio Permanente Effettivo) on 13 August 1936 and in the same month was assigned to the 91a Squadriglia, 10° Gruppo, 4° Stormo C.T. in Gorizia.[2]

Spain[edit]

Lucchini first saw action in the Spanish Civil War in 1937, with the 23° Gruppo CT. During the conflict, flying Fiat CR.32, he claimed five air victories over Russian-built aircraft.[3] He shot down his first enemy aircraft on 12 October 1937. That day, the 23° Gruppo, while transferring to Zaragoza, attacked four Polikarpov R-Z “Natachas” escorted by nine I-16s “Ratas” and 15 I-15 “Curtiss”. At the end of the dogfight, which lasted about fifteen minutes, the Italians claimed seven (eleven according to other sources) fighters destroyed for no losses, although several Fiat CR.32s were hit and damaged. Lucchini was credited with one kill. On 7 January 1938, he claimed a shared Polikarpov R-Z.

On 21 February, he clashed - along with 23 others Fiat CR.32 - with about 40 Republican I-15 “Chatos” and I-16 “Moscas” fighters, already in combat with 17 Messerschmitt Bf109s. Germans and Italians claimed 10 enemy aircraft - and Lucchini was credited with one kill - but the Republican losses, in fact, were two destroyed and two damaged.[2] In Spain he was shot down twice. The second time, on 22 July 1938, he fell to an escorting I-16s after shooting down a Tupolev SB-2 bomber, and bailing out to become a prisoner.[3]

World War II[edit]

In 1940 Lucchini was posted to 10° Gruppo of the 4° Stormo CT, flying Fiat C.R.42 biplanes, in North Africa. Here, on 14 June 1940, he shared in the destruction of a Gloster Gladiator, in the Buk Buk area. A week later, on 21 June, he shot down a Short Sunderland flying boat, in the Bardia area. On the 4 August 1940 Lucchini probably shot down the British ace Marmaduke Pattle, considered to be the most successful Western Allied ace of the war.

On 27 June 1941 he claimed a Hawker Hurricane, and shared in many more victories.[3] Still in the Bardia area, on 24 July he shot down individually another Gloster Gladiator and damaged three Blenheim bombers.

In mid 1941 he operated over Malta, from Sicily, now flying C.200 monoplanes. But on 27 September he was wounded and was out of action for some time.

On 30 November 1941, Capitano Lucchini took command of the 84a Squadriglia of 4° Stormo. By the end of 1941, 10° Gruppo was re-equipped with the new, more effective, C.202. On 2 April 1942 Capitano Lucchini was leading the unit in its flight back to Castelvetrano, Sicily, from Rome/Ciampino airfield, with 26 new C.202.

In the combats over Malta, he added two more victories to his total. He claimed his first kill on 9 May 1942, a Spitfire, while escorting five CANT Z.1007bis from the 210a Squadriglia BT. The second - another Spitfire - was claimed on 15 May, while escorting three Savoia-Marchetti SM.84 bis of 4° Gruppo BT. But - according to some sources - the RAF did not suffer any losses in those air combats. On 26 May 1942 4° Stormo moved back to Libya for a second tour of desert operations in North Africa.

Here he was involved in many air combats throughout the second half of 1942, claiming at least 14 air victories and sharing many others. He claimed his first kill on 4 June, a P-40 over Bir Hakeim. He shot down another P-40 on 17 June, over Sidi Rezegh. On 10 July, Capitano Lucchini led eleven C.202s from 84a Squadriglia, 10° Gruppo, in a free hunt mission in El Alamein area, attacked a formation of 15 P-40s. The Curtiss P-40s formed a defensive Lufbery circle. The combat ended after 30 minutes when the Macchis had no more ammunition and Lucchini claimed a P-40. Three more were claimed by other Italian pilots.

On 16 July 1942, Lucchini and other pilots from 84a, 90a and 91a Squadriglia clashed with 25 P-40 and six Spitfires over Deir el Qattara. He shared in the destruction of a Curtiss fighter but his aircraft was hit by five bullets, one of them piercing a fuel tank in left wing root but he was able to land at El Quteifiya, although stunned by fuel vapour.[2] But he was shot down on 24 October, after claiming a Curtiss P-40 and a Douglas Boston. He was hospitalized and then evacuated home with his score at 25 kills. He rejoined the 10° Gruppo once more in June 1943, just in time to take part in Home Defence. His unit was then based in Sicily. [3]

Last mission[edit]

On 5 July 1943, Lucchini took off in his Macchi C.202 with 26 other pilots of 4° Stormo to intercept 52 USAAF Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses, probably from 99th Bomber Group, that were heading to bomb the airfields around Catania, escorted by 20 Spitfire from 72 and 243 Squadrons. Lucchini was leading 10° Gruppo that consisted of the 84a Squadriglia, the 90a Squadriglia and 91a Squadriglia. The Italian made a frontal attack on the bombers over Gerbini, ignoring the escorting Spitfires.[2] Over Catania, Lucchini was last seen to damage – with other pilots – three bombers and then to shoot down a Spitfire. But he was later himself shot down by heavy defensive fire and dived into the ground east of Catania.[3] At the time of his death, Lucchini was credited with 22 air victories, making him one of the highest-ranking Italian ace. These kills were claimed in 70 aerial combats, during 294 missions (alternatively 262 missions). He was also credited with 52 shared claims.

It should be remembered that the Regia Aeronautica was unwilling to recognise individual "kill" claims from 1940 well into 1942, favouring "collective" victories. This makes it very difficult accurately to state Lucchini's final number of kills.

Awards[edit]

  • Medaglia commemorativa della campagna di Spagna
  • Medaglia di benemerenza per i volontari della guerra Spagna
  • Gold Medal of Military Valour (Medaglia d’Oro al Valor Militare, posthumously, 1952) - "Commander, a group of young fighter. Pilot, animator, capable leader, enthusiastic, convinced. Italian fighter ace ideally pure. Volunteers for war suffered the harsh penalties of imprisonment without sapping the indomitable spirit. He faced the skies of all fronts pilots around the world and in duels, always willing cavalierly, flashed the superb qualities of the pilot and fighter. The countless victories do not intoxicated. Convinced of the mission to fulfill and continued to work with the exact same will, as constant at all clear in the fulfillment of his duty. He returned to combat with wounds still open, always first where more violent raging struggle knew how to instil others the pure feelings of love of country that animated him. In an epic battle supported above the sacred soil of Italy against opponents hundred times faster, it was bent by adverse fate, not the ability of the adversary who had always clearly dominated. Fell by as brave as brave lived and continuing the luminous trail of cabin continues with it to hold up to the pilots of his flock the true heroic way forward. - Heaven of North Africa, the Mediterranean and Sicily, June 1940 - July 1943"
  • Silver Medal of Military Valour (Medaglie d'argento al valore militare), 5 times (1939, 1940, 1941 and 2 others)
  • Bronze Medal of Military Valour (Medaglia di bronzo al valore militare)
  • War Merit Cross (Croce di guerra al valor militare), 3 times
  • Iron Cross of 1939, 2nd class (1942)
  • Mentioned in the Bollettino di Guerra (War Bulletin) on 5 September 1942 and 6 July 1943

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Spick 1999, p. 106.
  2. ^ a b c d http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/italy_lucchini.htm
  3. ^ a b c d e Shores 1983, p. 83.
Bibliography
  • Gustavsson, Håkan. URL "Italy Capitano Franco Lucchini Medaglia d'Oro al Valor Militareconsultato." Biplane fighter aces on Håkan's aviation page. Retrieved: 10 August 2010.
  • Massimello, Giovanni and Giorgio Apostolo. Italian Aces of World War Two. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2000. ISBN 978-1-84176-078-0.
  • Neulen, Hans Werner. In the Skies of Europe. Ramsbury, Marlborough, UK: The Crowood Press, 2000. ISBN 1-86126-799-1.
  • Pagliano, Franco. Aviatori Italiani (in Italian). Milano: Longanesi, 1969.
  • Paravicini, Pier Paolo. Pilota da caccia 1942-1945(in Italian). Milano: Mursia, 2007.
  • Pesce, Giuseppe and Giovanni Massimello. Adriano Visconti Asso di guerra (in Italian). Parma: Albertelli editore s.r.l., 1997.
  • Shores, Christopher. Air Aces. Greenwich, CT: Bison Books, 1983. ISBN 0-86124-104-5.
  • Spick, Mike. The Complete Fighter Ace All the World's Fighter Aces, 1914-2000. London: Greenhill Books. 1999.

External links[edit]